[OPE-L:1952] Necessity of absolute surplus value

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Thu, 25 Apr 1996 04:56:38 -0700

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Why do I say absolute surplus value is necessary but
relative is not?

Absolute surplus value refers to the static fact that the
working day is longer than the amount of labour
currently required to produce the wage.

This is an absolute precondition for capitalist profit.

Relative surplus value refers to changes in the value
of the wage due to technical advances. This is not
a precondition, since simple reproduction at the existing
value of the real wage is a possibility.

There is in principle a third mechanism, that Marx out
of theoretical 'charity' downplayed, absolute reductions
in the real wage.

If we observe the establishment of capitalism in
Russia over the last few years, its initial precondition
was to transfer a portion of the social income that formerly
accrued to workers in the form of wages and, equally importantly,
benefits in kind, into profit. This was done by establishing
absolute surplus value:
a) A very substantial reduction in real wages
b) Reducing the work force in factories, so that each worker
had to perform more labour daily, the level of technology
remaining either unchanged, or, more usually actually regressing.

My concern is that by asserting the necessity of relative
surplus value we would be grossly overestimating the progressive
potential of capitalist industry.

Paul Cockshott